National Wildlife Refuge System

Wilderness Fellows Meet Wilderness Wildlife

On the Cape Island wilderness area at Cape Romain Refuge, SC, sea turtles build an average 1,000 nests per year, making it the most significant loggerhead nesting beach north of Cape Canaveral.
Credit: USFWS

What features make a wilderness distinct? What challenges do our American wildernesses face and how much change can our most pristine wildlands withstand? On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014, the National Wildlife Refuge System has assembled a talented group of young conservationists to find out.


Each of seven 2013 Wilderness Fellows (pdf) − all graduate students or in the early stages of their careers − will spend the next several months assessing the features  of two to three Refuge System wilderness areas, from as far south as Wolf Island, GA, to as far north as the Arctic. Then each will create a method to monitor change in the character of that wilderness.  All the fellows will be contributing to a regular blog about the wildlife and character of these wilderness areas within the Refuge System.


The 1964 Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, which protects nearly 110 million acres of wilderness areas nationwide. Wilderness is wild land − undeveloped and unmanaged. It can offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, wildlife observation and some forms of recreation.

There are more than 20 million acres of designated wilderness in the National Wildlife Refuge System – about one-fifth of all the designated wilderness areas in the United States. There are 75 wilderness areas on 63 units of the Refuge System in 26 states.  About 90 percent of the Refuge System wilderness is in Alaska.


Meet the 2013 Wilderness Fellows


Wilderness Fellows Blog – Molly McCarter discovered nature’s secrets at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge while Kelly Pippins helped install hatcheries for loggerhead sea turtles at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

More on wilderness in the National Wildlife Refuge System

Last updated: June 14, 2013